US Won’t Freeze MCC Funding, Will Work With Sarkisian

US Charge d'Affairs Joseph Pennington

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–US Charge d’Affaires Joseph Pennington told reporters Monday that the Millennium Challenge Corporation will give the new Armenian Administration the opportunity to implement democratic reforms before it reconsiders terminating a $235.6 million grant for rural development in Armenia.
By working with the new administration, the Millennium Challenge Corporation will be able to put Armenia back on the long road to democracy, Pennington said.
In a March 11 letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, the head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation John Danilovich warned that the US government agency managing the program could "suspend or terminate" the five-year aid package because of the post-election developmen’s in Armenia.
Earlier in March, Pennington told reporters that America’s decision to continue the "Millennium Challenge" aid would be dependent on Armenia’s democratic development.
The US diplomat had warned that if the Armenian government does not take genuine steps to improve the situation the MCC program will be cancelled.
US officials have repeatedly said that the sum’s disbursement is conditional on democratic reform and improved governance in Armenia.
Kocharian responded to US threats to cut aid to Armenia’s rural development programs by reminding Washington that the MCC is not Armenia’s only option for continuing the development of its rural provinces.
"Of course Armenia would like to continue working with the Millennium Challenges Corporation, but if it decides to suspend funding, Armenia will choose other opportunities for the complete implementation of the program," Kocharian told reporters on March 21.
Many unanswered questions arise when the Millennium Challenge Corporation threatens to suspend its programs in other countries, Kocharian explained, adding that the program is very peculiar in this sense, because it shows that the program has motives beyond economic development.
Three days later, Armenia’s Central Bank Chief, Tigran Sargsyan, said that Armenia’s close relations with Russia will enable it to tackle several challenges, including the temporary suspension of funding tied to the Millennium Challenge project.
"Of course this project helps the country a lot. However, we are relying on our own economic resources. Armenia will develop through market reforms. The indicators that we have and will continue to experience economic growth will allow our American colleagues to revisit their decision and resume the program," Sargsyan said in an interview with the Moscow-based Rosiak Gazeta.
Sargsyan’s statemen’s came as Armenian President Elect Serzh Sarkisian was meeting with Russia’s outgoing President Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, and Russian President-Elect Dmitry Medvedev, in Moscow on what was his first trip abroad after his victory in last month’s presidential election.
The newly elected presidents of both countries said during their first meeting in Moscow on March 24 that Russia and Armenia will be working to develop closer relations.
In related news, Pennington and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and US OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Mathew Bryza will take part in President-Elect Serzh Sarkisian’s inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
Pennington expressed hope during his press conference Monday that the US would be able to work with the new Armenian Administration.

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